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Judge in California Avgas Suit Seeks Additional Info

October 13, 2011 – A lawsuit by California FBOs and aviation fuel distributors intended to stop threatened legal action by an environmental group is on hold after a federal judge asked for additional information in the case.

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) reported that Judge Anthony Ishii of the U.S. District Court in Fresno, California, asked for additional briefings following a request by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and the state of California to dismiss the lawsuit. Ishii is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss within the next week.

CEH initially demanded a prohibition on selling avgas because of the lead in the fuel and that civil penalties and legal fees be paid that could range in the billions of dollars. CEH later changed their demands, removing the proposed ban of avgas sales and consumer warnings of lead emissions to those living or passing through areas near airports, but maintaining the demand for civil penalties, according to NATA. Under California law, individuals and organizations bringing suit under the environmental statutes are entitled to keep a significant portion of the monetary awards and civil penalties for themselves. This has become something of a cottage industry in California, where environmental groups financially support themselves through the filing and award of damages from suits such as these.

NATA, supporting a coalition of California fuel producers, distributors, and dealers, brought the lawsuit that is arguing that federal efforts to remove lead of avgas – in which EAA is participating – preempts the state-level lawsuit. If the CEH’s motion to dismiss the claim is denied, a second hearing is scheduled for October 26 on the fuel coalition’s motion for an injunction.

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